Home Gardens Crucial to Survival of Urban Bees

Even balconies and window boxes in densely urban regions can provide food for pollinators. (Credit: Nicholas Tew)

(CN) β€” Pollinating insects such as bees is crucial to agriculture, but new research revealed on Sunday found that home gardens in cities and towns are crucial to them as well, providing an average of 85% of their food.

In a study published Sunday in the Journal of Ecology, researchers from the University of Bristol and other universities in the U.K. detailed their findings and the importance of urban flora.

Scientists examined three home gardens and discovered that they produced a daily average of a teaspoon of ambrosia, a high-carbohydrate liquid in flowers that bees and other pollinators eat. Just one teaspoon is enough to feed thousands of bees, who in turn help maintain such gardens.

“We expected private gardens in towns and cities to be a plentiful source of nectar, but didn’t anticipate the scale of production would be to such an overwhelming extent. Our findings highlight the pivotal role they play in supporting pollinators and promoting biodiversity in urban areas across the country,” said Nicholas Tew, ecologist and lead author, in a statement.

The research team studied the nectar production of home gardens in four cities in the U.K.: Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading. The scientists measured nectar in almost 200 plant species and extracted the nectar from over 3,000 individual flowers.

“Gardens are so important because they produce the most nectar per unit area of land and they cover the largest area of land in the cities we studied,” Tew said. “We found the nectar supply in urban landscapes is more diverse, in other words comes from more plant species, than in farmland and nature reserves, and this urban nectar supply is critically underpinned by private gardens.”

The researchers found that home gardens made up 29% of the land in urban cities, a large amount that underpins the survival of bees.

“The research illustrates the huge role gardeners play in pollinator conservation, as without gardens there would be far less food for pollinators, which include bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, and beetles in towns and cities,” Tew said. β€œIt is vital that new housing developments include gardens and also important for gardeners to try to make sure their gardens are as good as possible for pollinators.

“Ways to do this include planting nectar-rich flowers, ensuring there is always something in flower from early spring to late autumn, mowing the lawn less often to let dandelions, clovers, daisies and other plant flowers flourish, avoiding spraying pesticides which can harm pollinators, and avoiding covering garden in paving, decking or artificial turf,” he added.

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